KANSAS CITY, Mo. — No, Gary Sanchez insisted, the game is not that simple.
Regardless of what the results suggest so far.
“Nothing is easy,” Sanchez said before Monday night’s game against the Royals.
It has only seemed that way.
The 23-year-old catcher was named the AL’s Player of the Week for the second straight week on Monday, becoming the first rookie in MLB history to win the award in consecutive weeks.
In six games last week, Sanchez hit .522/.607/.1.304 with five homers, nine RBIs, three doubles, five walks and seven runs. For the week, Sanchez led the majors in slugging, OPS (1.911), total bases (30) and extra-base hits (eight).
All of that coming off the previous week when he slashed .524/.600/.1.190 with four homers and six RBI.
“Because this past I week I kind of played the same way I played the week before, I thought there was a chance I would get it again,” Sanchez said through his translator. “But I’m still working very hard. That’s helping me a lot as well.”
That and being given the everyday catching duties.
“One thing I can say is when they gave me the opportunity to play every day, that gives you more confidence as a player, so that’s one thing I can say,” Sanchez said.
Since becoming an everyday player Aug. 3, Sanchez, the first in the AL to win the Player of the Week award two consecutive weeks since Albert Belle of the White Sox did so in 1998, has produced a .425/.489/.938 slash line, with 11 homers, 21 RBI and a 1.426 OPS.
A slump of some kind, at some point, is inevitable, right?
“If there wasn’t, it would be the best year ever had,” Joe Girardi said with a laugh before Monday’s game.
He added: “I’m sure he’s going to have his ups and downs like any other player.”
Sanchez, thrilled to receive a congratulatory message from former Mariners great Edgar Martinez for his most recent Player of the Week award, said going through the type of skid every big leaguer goes through at some point isn’t a concern.
“That’s something I don’t worry about,” he said. “What I need to worry about is today. Focus on the work today, the routine and focus on the game today.”
Sanchez’s first-month achievements at the plate have garnered the majority of attention but inside the Yankees’ clubhouse, pitchers have appreciated the clear strides Sanchez has made defensively, not always a strength.
CC Sabathia, in his 16th season in the majors, said he allows Sanchez to call a game as he would any other catcher.
“He has good suggestions, which is rare for a young catcher,” Sabathia said. “That makes you feel good and confident . . . It’s been amazing what he’s been able to do.”
The most significant thing Sanchez has done, though not entirely by himself, is keep the Yankees relevant in the chase for the AL wild card. Entering Monday the Bombers had won their last three series and 11 of their last 17 games, allowing them to climb within 3 ½ games of the Orioles for the second wild-card spot.
That, Sanchez said, is the primary source of his excitement of late, not the Player of the Week honors.
“You feel happy and excited when you get an award like that, but what I’m happier about is we’re winning series right now,” he said. “That’s what we want to keep doing. It’s definitely a nice feeling when you’re doing well but at the same time the team is doing well, and we’re right there in the (playoff) fight. It’s even better.”